Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

revenge-plot

REVIEW:  La Desperada by Patricia Burroughs

REVIEW: La Desperada by Patricia Burroughs

La Desperada

With her husband dead by suicide and his crazed brother accusing her of murder, Philadelphia-bred Elizabeth Dougherty breaks into the jail and holds a cold-blooded killer at gunpoint.

“I’ll release you if you agree to my terms. Take me with you.” But when Boone Coulter grudgingly agrees, he has no idea that her enemy is the sheriff–a nightmare from his own past who now wants them both dead.

That wild leap of desperation launches their their passionate tale of love and sacrifice becomes the stuff of legend…

The legend of La Desperada.

Dear Ms. Burroughs,

To be bluntly honest, I almost abandoned this book at what I thought was the half-way point. Then I reread the Daily Deals post here and remembered that the book is shorter than the ebook page count would lead one to believe. Realizing how much closer I was to the finish line, I got myself through it. What I’ve written so far will no doubt give a good idea of my feelings for it.

Actually the book started off well. It’s soon obvious that the book and characters will have a very dark tone. This is no Western romcom or cutesy story. Death and despair drip from the pages. But that’s okay. Sometimes I want a darker book and the darkness isn’t what bothers me about it.

The impetus behind the action goes back to a horrific night years before the main story begins. Foul deeds were done, people died, lives were irrevocably changed but only three people now know the truth behind what occurred. The mystery of what really happened is coyly hinted at yet not revealed, even to the reader much less to poor Elizabeth, until almost the end of the book. I can deal with some hints and waiting for the whole truth and nothing but the truth but not for this long. By the time Coulter reveals all, I was past really giving a damn and more pissed about how long it took than anything else.

Elizabeth and Coulter are very different people. She’s refined, ladylike and unused to roughing it. Coulter has had to live by his wits and on the run for ten years. They’re obviously going to clash and frankly I enjoyed their initial encounters including how Elizabeth breaks him out of jail. Soon after that though, their bickering began to get old. She’s weak on the trail, as might be expected, and he has little patience for it, as also might be expected, but I for one got tired of seeing her weaknesses endlessly detailed and watching Coulter snarl, frown and show impatience with her. After a few times, I got it.

The two arrive at the mountain hideaway of a mysterious man known to Coulter. By the time they leave, a bit more is know about this powerful man but not much. He played some vital role in Coulter’s life but the whole of it is never revealed and a later mention of Miquel Obregon does little to cast any more light on him or what ties him to Coulter. This left me frustrated. The villain is as eeeevil as they come but there really isn’t too much more to him than cardboard evility. He’s going to pop up, make trouble and be evil through the book but readers shouldn’t look for more.

Right about the time that Elizabeth and Coulter begin dallying in “I hate you, I hate you, I’m strangely attracted to you, let’s fuck” I got bored and this is almost where I quit. It’s sex, followed by snipping and arguments, followed by more sex and suddenly they’re in love and Elizabeth is acting like a martyr. If I hadn’t calculated that 1. I only had 100 pages left and 2. peeked ahead and thought the ending might justify me sticking it out, I would have moved on to another book but I didn’t.

Heading down the stretch, the last part is actually not bad. Tension ratchets up, the noose closes around our two on the run and only some fancy footwork gets them away to safety. The means by which this occurs are thankfully not of the deus ex machina variety.

The plot is well done, the atmosphere is chilling, the escape at the end is clever but unfortunately some rather standard romance tropes, an unexplained section of the plot and a two dimensional villain don’t serve the story well. I wish my grade could be higher but a C it is.

~Jayne

AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle

REVIEW:  He’s Come Undone by Theresa Weir

REVIEW: He’s Come Undone by Theresa Weir

hes-come-undone

“Penniless and behind on rent, college student and once famous child actress Ellie Barlow takes on the role of a lifetime when she’s hired by a group of young women to break the heart of the campus player who cruelly dumped them.

Transformed from slob slacker to jaw-dropping beauty, Ellie is dressed, styled, bleached and waxed, her chunky glasses exchanged for violet contacts. Along with physical prepping, she’s coached on Julian’s obsessions, which include long-distance running, Doctor Who, and J.D. Salinger.

In no time, Julian is in pursuit of his custom-made next victim, but when Ellie goes off script and begins to fall for her target the newest broken heart in this risky game could be her own.”

Dear Ms. Weir,

Can you get me to want to read a book with a hero who sounds like an ass? Yes, you can. Do I want to read about a heroine whose physical transformation only needs contacts instead of glasses to suddenly look dazzling? Again, yes I do. Revenge plot? I hate revenge plots but I’m reading this one. Am I still hoping that we’ll get the third cat novella with Sam and Max’s sister? Please! Oh, please!

Ahem. Now back to our review already in progress.

So here I am diving into a novella that ought to have me running in the opposite direction and I’m diving in, voluntarily, head first, into waters of uncertain depth. Let’s examine why the issues that should have canned this one actually didn’t. Revenge plots are common in Romancelandia but instead of the usual hero who will wreck havoc on the heroine, here it’s women aiming to bring down the man they think treated them like shit. I know that to some it might seem like a stereotypical cat fight of women angry at a man but I choose to look at it as women who aren’t going to passively take being dismissed. The way in which they orchestrate the whole affair also seems very modern – using Craig’s List, a notarized contract, and detailed notes for Ellie, the actress, to study. However, I’ll be honest and say the plot is one that just has to be accepted until the action gets going.

Ellie’s transformation from a 6 on a good day to a 10++ smacks of the hated “we’re supposed to believe that all it takes is removing her glasses, letting her hair down from a tight bun and putting her in sexy clothes to turn her into a knockout?” trope. But Ellie is also a real actress, used to the camera, used to being transformed by makeup. And a properly fitted bra can do wonders to change a woman. Ellie’s also smart and realizes that her “change” is only surface deep – inside she’s the same person with her good and bad points and her own scared past.

Julian is first presented to us by others and we see him as a beautiful, fuckwad user who has deeply angered several women. Then his redemption in the eyes of the reader starts. Very quickly it’s obvious that there is some dark secret in his past, dark enough to cause him to be seeing a psychiatrist, dark enough to be on anti-depression medication, dark enough to have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility. Julian’s got issues but to me they are believable ones.

So we’ve got two broken people who need to be salvaged in my eyes. Two? Well Ellie isn’t lily white pure here either as she’s taking money to try and get someone to fall in love with her solely in order to then break his heart. The reasons given for Julian and Ellie’s actions are ones I can accept. Ellie’s might not be noble but it’s understandable. Poverty can get you to do things you might otherwise never stoop to. Julian has – and is still – going through his own private hell. One that his psychiatrist believes has arrested his emotional development to the age when the event happened. He feels the sexual contact he has with the women makes him feel alive instead of internally dead and he truly believes his casual attitude towards relationships is normal. Watching both of them grow, understand the wrongness of what they’re doing and change is part of the emotional satisfaction of the book.

I thought the novella was also well crafted. The characterization is consistent and I enjoyed the first person POV chance to actually get inside each person’s head. Ellie, Julian and the scorned women might not understand the motivations, changes and evolution of each other, but we do. Readers who want more of the hero’s feelings will appreciate how much time is spent seeing things from Julian’s perspective.

But wait, there are also other things I like about it. Things are shown vs being told such as when Julian first began to notice and become interested in Ellie. The changes in the characters seemed to flow naturally and build slowly instead of conveniently appearing. The trauma in Julian’s past is delicately revealed but the revelation is all the more powerful for its lack of details which leave a reader free to fill in the blanks, or not. The issue of Julian’s mental health, both in what he’s already suffered and the new consequences from what happens in the novella, feel realistic and hurrah for the fact that twue lurve isn’t shown as fixing it all.

Can readers overcome the fact that Julian did, even in his own eyes, treat these young women badly? Will people believe that Ellie’s reasons for what she agreed to do, and signed a contract for, are good enough? I did, in both cases, because of the fact that I believed in their changes by the end of the novella. Despite a few nitpicks – what else Ellie could have done first to make money and the interchangeable feel of the disgruntled women – it was a fast and enjoyable read for me. B

~Jayne

AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle